Did Anne Boleyn look like this?

It’s Friday, my brain is fried and I’ve gone all philosophical and “deep” – sorry! I apologise in advance for this article as it will be a load of thoughts gushing out of my poor mushy brain, it will ramble and may not make sense!

This article was sparked off by a comment on Facebook from a lady who was a stripper and admired Anne Boleyn because “she played Henry like a lute…. she got the cash, the jewels, and the crown… Anne didn’t take his s**t. She was his equal.” I immediately found myself getting on my soapbox and high horse, writing of how the primary sources did not support this idea of Anne blah blah blah, but then I stopped and deleted my comment. I thought “Who am I to tell this woman, who obviously admires Anne and says that she has been her role model since she was a little girl, what to believe about Anne?” Although that’s not ‘my’ Anne Boleyn, can I prove definitively that Anne wasn’t the woman that lady believes in? Hmmm…

It got me thinking that the beauty of Anne Boleyn, the thing that draws us in and won’t let go, is her mystery and the fact that she can be all things to all people. For some, she is a feminist icon, for others she is a tragic victim. For some she is a Protestant martyr, for others she is the victim of a faction battle. For some she is a sexual predator, for others she is a manipulated pawn on a chessboard or a victim of sexual harassment. For some she is a wh*re and a homewrecker, for others she is a virtuous woman who dared to say “no”. For some she is the proud, ambitious woman who played a game and deserved everything she got, for others she was a woman who made the best out of her situation. For some she is a role model who inspires them, for others she is the woman who stole another woman’s husband and deserves to be damned for eternity. In Howard Brenton’s play, she is the woman who caused the English Reformation, a Joan of Arc figure, and in The Other Boleyn Girl she is a scheming woman who will consider murder and incest to get what she wants….

Anne Boleyn is a paradox. Her life can be manipulated by historians and authors to fit their theories and ideas. The primary sources can be read in different ways. We fill in the blanks in her story with our own ideas about her, yet we just don’t know who Anne Boleyn really was. We do not have a portrait that we can hand-on-heart say “that is Anne Boleyn”, we do not have her replies to Henry VIII’s love letters, we don’t have a diary that she kept; all we have is contemporary sources, some written by people who admired her, e.g. John Foxe, and some written by those who did not care for her, e.g. Eustace Chapuys.

Then we have books written by learned academics, the likes of Eric Ives and G W Bernard, but even they don’t agree. We have Ives, who believes that Anne Boleyn was innocent and that she was framed, arguing that the dates used in the indictments at her trial make no sense as she was not even at those places at those times, and then we have G W Bernard playing Devil’s advocate and asking does that really prove that she was innocent? It seems that we can use the evidence to support completely opposite theories!

I have dedicated this website to finding out the ‘real’ truth about Anne Boleyn, but what is that? Will I ever find it? Can I paint the picture of the real Anne Boleyn? “No” is the honest answer. What I can do is research her life, look at the sources and interpret them but what I write is MY interpretation. OK, there are various acknowledged facts, things that appear in many different sources, but most of what we believe about Anne is based on hypotheses, whether our own or that of an historian. When we had history essays to write based on a statement which then ended with “Discuss”, my history teacher at school (thank you, Mrs Sagi!) said that it did not matter what case you argued as long as you could back it up with evidence, and the mystery surrounding Anne Boleyn means that we can represent her in so many different ways and nobody can tell us that we are wrong.

Where does that leave those of us who are trying to get to the truth? It leaves us having to accept that Anne Boleyn is a puzzle, and loving her for that, it leaves us acknowledging that we are on a journey that may have no end. See, I told you this was going to be deep!

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85 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn – All Things to All People”
  1. Thank you Claire! This is one of the best articles that I have ever read. Anne Boleyn will always be a mystery and I think that’s one of the things that I love so much about her. She can be anything to anyone and that makes her incredibly personable and her memory and mystery will live on forever.

    1. Thank you, I guess my brain wasn’t complete mush! I just find it so fascinating how Anne Boleyn is perceived so differently by people.

      1. Claire, your brain is far from mush!!! In fact, you have summarized my forthcoming book, The Creation of Anne Boleyn, in a nutshell. In it, I’ll discuss the cultural and historical roots of all the Annes that you mention, from the poisonous pen of Eustace Chapuys to Howard Brenton’s (who I interviewed) new play, to the vision of today’s young women. Thanks for the call-out on the book, and also for all your excellent posts!

      2. Hi Claire, you will find Anne in the chapel, who she really was and is today. A person who loved God, her fellows, and all of heaven. She wanted people to be free from clerical and religious oppression, and tried to gain more freedom for them in her way. She was also a person true to herself, courageous, vindictive, impulsive and very loyal to those who loved her. A part of Anne was a little girl trying her best to live in a big world. That’s what I see. X

  2. I think Claire , you sum it up in your final paragraph.The study of Anne Boleyn is akin to a mysterious journey that may have no end. It is said the journey is more enjoyable than the arrival, and whilst on that journey we can anticipate, imagine and decide what this extraordinary lady means to us.

    1. I’ve always thought of what I do as a journey and it is a very enjoyable one! Anne was an extraordinary woman and I bet she would find it very amusing if she knew about all the controversy surrounding her.

  3. Great article Claire, no need to apologize! To me Anne Boleyn was a strong, intelligent, fiery passionate woman But most of all, we have to remember she was human. I think some people when it comes to Anne ethier put her on a pedestal or condemn her as this horrible she-devil which she was nether. She wasn’t perfect but she also was not a scheming murderer ethier.

    1. Thank you! I agree, like all of us she was flawed and had her faults but she certainly did not deserve her fate or the way that she is often portrayed today. To me, she is neither the Protestant Martyr or the wh*re.

  4. I’d stay off the bottle if I were you, Ridgway!
    Seriously though, I think Anne was just very very human, and I don’t think any human being can be completely understood let alone one who died nearly five-hundred years ago. You could say that all humans are complex but some are more complex than others. Anne was cetainly a complex individual and our perseption of her is not helped by all of the conflicting reports we have from people who either loved or loathed her. In another five-hundred years what on earth are people going to make of Princesss Diana?

    1. He he! Bit early for me but I can’t promise not to indulge in the old vino tonight!

      Yes, I often wonder how Princess Diana will be represented in the future. Queen of Hearts? Tragic victim? Anorexix/Bullimic? Adulteress? What you say is spot on. We don’t even know about the private lives of recent historical characters and even modern day celebrities so have no hope of completely understanding a Tudor person!

      1. And what about Camila Parker Bowles ? maybe in 500 years there would be fans for Camila to say she made Charles very happy , and that Diana should have left them to be happy without complaining so Diana would be the other Catherine and Camila the other Anne Bolein with the differense that Camila still have her head on and Diana has gone!!! so how is history going to portray them?!!

        1. Is of common knowledge that Camila destroyed Diana’s Marriage by keeping her relationship with Charles even though she was married and so was Charles , so can you see what I mean now!!!

        2. Being British of course I know about the whole Camilla/Charles/Diana issue but I don’t see what something which happened in the 1980s and 90s has to do with something that happened in the 1520s and 30s. Women in the 20th century had far more choices that women in the 16th century. Camilla had a choice, Anne did not.

        3. Because Diana came to the discusion I though I could add Camila as she is in the centre of the Diana’s Charles story, I am not British but I have read and studied a lot about your country’s history and I find it rather interesting!! both past and modern

        4. British history is so interesting. I grew up in Warwickshire, near to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Kenilworth etc. so I rather took the history I was surrounded by for granted! Where are you from?

        5. I am originaly from Central America a small but very beautiful country called El Salvador , but I live in Australia I have been living here for the past 30 years so I am considered by my friends an Ausie, however, my education is from both countries as I studied in El Salvador and then did further studies in Australian Universities I work in the Social and Community Services sector, when I came to Australia I was surprised of the way that people believed in Monarchy as a mean of government ,that was new to me as I grew up in a republican system so for me kings and queens were things of the past and mainly fairy tales , so I decided to research more about the whole european Royal Houses and became very much interested in their history. My family are of Spanish Italian and French origen, so a very mixed cultural background, also Catholic to the end of days, but very respectful of other people’s religion or political beliefs.

  5. very good Claire you covered all most of the topics related to what people think about Anne Boleyn as for me i am in the group who believes that she was a home wrecker as she ended up with Catherine of Aragon ‘ s husband as Catherine was very much alive when Anne got involved with Henry , also you all criticize and feel sorry for Anne when her marriage was annuled and her daughter became a bastard but what about what happened to Catherine and Mary ? Because of Anne the humiliation that they went through , these are facts not theories , so there are facts of what Anne was in real Tudor times and all these things about Anne not accepting Henry’s courtship ….mmmm i don’t think so otherwise she would not have married him , she wanted the crown she got it but at what price? The destruction of another women and a child , the destruction of many other people , religion controversy, and her own destruction Very sad!!!

    1. ” also you all criticize and feel sorry for Anne when her marriage was annuled and her daughter became a bastard but what about what happened to Catherine and Mary ?”

      That is a very sweeping comment, Yesenia! Who are “all”? I personally admire and love Anne and Catherine and don’t feel the need to choose between them. They were both amazing women and they both had tragic ends. I feel sorry for both of them and Mary so what you are saying is completely untrue.

      You talk about facts, but it is your perception of the facts. For me, the facts point to Henry being ultimately responsible for the ill treatment and humiliation of Catherine and Mary. Mary’s treatment actually got worse after Anne was dead and gone, not better.

      Regarding Anne and Henry’s courtship, as I said that is down to our reading of the facts as we do not have Anne’s replies to Henry’s letters, but it is clear from Henry’s letters that Anne gave him the brush off and that she left court. You are giving Tudor women too much power, in an age where they had no choices, if you believe that Anne chose to be queen and that she wanted the crown. You are also, in my opinion, giving her too much power and influence, if you believe that the destruction of Catherine, “other people”, her own destruction and “religious controversy” were all down to Anne. She may have been the catalyst but Henry VIII was King and it was he who made the decisions. Just my opinion and as I said you can interpret the facts to back up your opinion.

    2. Regarding your response, it is important to remembre Henry’s character. If he didn’t want Anne then it would have been someone else. I do feel sorry for Catherine, however she choose to have Mary beome a bastard by not divorcing Henry. Anne is not a home-wrecker and she didn’t deserve to die for not being able to have a son. It was a different period of time.

      1. Hi claire and Maggy,

        first of all When i say All it is about Anne B Fans who do not want to see the clear picture of a very factual relationship breackdown (Catherine’s and Henry) because of a third person involved in their marriage, that person was Anne; so if that is not wrecking a marriage what it is?
        So you say that Anne did not deserved to die because she could not provide a male heir, I totaly agree with you , as I also believe that Catherine of Aragon should not have been forced to a divorce because of the same reason and just to make way for Anne to marry Henry, many people,s opinions in this forums have expressed the same feelings about Catherine that she should have divorced Henry in order for Mary not to became a bastard that is totaly unfair and offensive to Catherine’s memory,Mary should have never became a bastard as she was the true legitimate daughter of Henry and Catherine and to know that Henry and Anne forced her to became their daughter’s servant it was a terrible insult to her dignity as a true Royal Princess and the grandaughter of Isabel De castilla and Ferdinand of Aragon she deserved better, as for the opinions and disrespecful nicnames for Mary ( “Bloody Mary”) how come there are not nicknames for Elizabeth1 who also killed many people including her cousin Mary. so where is the fairness of the history for Catherine and Mary ? lets not be biased!!!! and this is just my humble opinion!!

        1. You’re still making very sweeping comments, Yesenia. If you have read The Anne Boleyn Files and Elizabeth Files, you will know that I always try to be fair to all historical characters and I have written lots about Catherine of Aragon and also various articles about Mary and how unfair the whole “Bloody Mary” myth is. You say “let’s not be biased” and yet you make sweeping comments, lump all “Anne B fans” together when everyone has their own views on Anne and what happened and suggest that everyone who is an Anne fan thinks that Catherine should have allowed Henry to divorce her. I know some that think that but others who don’t.
          From my research into Henry VIII, he had decided before he even met Anne Boleyn that he needed an annulment because his marriage was contrary to Biblical law. Anne may have been the catalyst for him actually ‘fast tracking’ the annulment but she certainly did not wreck the marriage. The marriage did not break down because of a third person, it had already broken down before Henry met Anne.
          I love the fact that we all have different opinions and can enjoy debate, but you are making such sweeping statements and accusing people of bias and that just is not conducive to civilized debate.

        2. Hello Yersenia,

          Elizabeth did, in fact, have nicknames: The Little wh*re and The Little Bastard right after Anne’s execution when she was a toddler. During her imprisonment while her sister Mary reigned, when she was falsely accused of trying to overthrow her, she was called Bastard, Heretic, Usurper and wh*re, to name a few colorful choices.

          Although I come from the U.S. of A., I have been a Tudor fan for 40 years. Let’s remember that Henry did have absolute power and did exactly whatever he chose to do and no one could stop him: No King of France, no Holy Roman Emperor, and no Pope.

          Claire, this had to be the best article you have written! Anne is “all-to-all”.

          Rock on.

    3. Well, now you call me uncivilized because I do not agree with your opinions of Anne ,before I wrote my opinions I read all the pages of the Anne boleyn and Elizabeth files so that I can compare notes of the different opinions of people about the historical characters and in most of them the same points have been made about Catherine and Mary in one post it was sugested that Mary1 did nothing to improve England, that her nine years of reign were a disaster, I felt disapointed that there were not credits given to Mary for forging the paths for Eizabeth to improve England’s life standars. perhaps I am in the wrong site and the wrong history forums as my opinions are seem to be offensive to you . and my opinion of the woman who according to Queen Catherine of Aragon was the “scandal of Christendom” ( Anne Boleyn ) has not changed , as I dislike very much women who enjoy Married man’s attentions and cause other women pain.

      1. I did not call you uncivilized, I said that making sweeping comments and attacking people was not conducive to debate. It is not your opinions that are “offensive” to me, it is the way you go about putting them forward. This site is for friendly debate and is a place where people of very different views can air them and discuss them in a friendly and polite manner. I felt that the way that you were putting your views forward was very attacking.

        As far as Mary is concerned, I have written about her achievements and discussed David Loades’ article where he puts forward her achievements. I am not of the view that her reign was a disaster, I am of the view that she did much to pave the way for Elizabeth and deserves some of the credit for Elizabeth I’s Golden Age.

        1. Well the air is clear now , and forgive me I am of Latin American origen and we tend to be very passionate about our opinions and some times may even sound beligerant but not harm is meant , so lets keep the discusions going on it is very good for my 50 something brain!!!

        2. I live in Spain so don’t worry, I understand the Latin passion. I really did not want to get into an argument, I just want this website to have a friendly feel so that anyone, no matter what their knowledge of the period, feels free to comment. Thank you for your understanding.

        3. Everyone has their own opinion, and I believe that Catherine and Mary should have been treated better. I am happy to say that I have some similar personality traits to Anne, and I understand what it means to be passionate about something or someone. Having said that, what about a compromise? To each our own?

      2. De quoi je me mele? Getting into the private quarrel between Katherine, Mary and Anne when all three are dead! really. Of course Henry had nothing to do with it all.

  6. What a wonderful article! This has to be the best description of Anne that I’ve ever read. You have summed up our beloved Anne in a way that I’ve never seen done before…and put ‘in a nutshell’ so to speak, the reasons why so many of us find her the fascinating person that she is, and why we all are so devoted to her memory. Thank you!

  7. You showed exactly what I like about Historical Characters ! I mean,I love a lot of Historical character (Cleopatra,Anne Of Britanny,Wu Zetian,Anne Boleyn) and all of them can be seen in so many dimensions ! From all those who I have mentionnend,the most interesting ones to study are Anne Boleyn and Cleopatra insofar as both became Myths even if there was a stupendous propaganda against them (By the romans for Cleopatra,calling her “Regina Meretrix”,The Queen wh*re”,like Anne has been also often called). If There would be no mysteries surrounding those persons,if we would have a genuine and authenthified portrait of them (both physically and emotionally),they would be so much less interesting !

  8. It’s also been noted on various accounts that Henry was looking to be rid of Catherine before Anne Boleyn came along. It’s unfair to place so much blame on Anne when considering that aspect. Also, Jane Seymour did not ignore Henry’s advances while he was married to Anne. One can easily call Jane a homewrecker, or one can take into consideration how much of a choice women had then, and Anne’s supposed inability to provide a male heir.

    I loved this article. 🙂

  9. As I have said in a previous comment from another article, Anne was a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma. She was a mutifasceted woman who was ahead of her time, yet a victim of it. She was the other woman, and then the woman scorned. Anne was everything you think she is, and not at the same time. To think, 475 years after her execution, and we are still talking about her! Her slight smile in her portraits make me think that she somehow knew we would be. =)

  10. Excellent analysis of the different faces of Anne Boleyn!! And I agree completely with the last paragraph–her mystery is a huge part of her allure. One’s interpretation of Anne’s life and character are much more a reflection of the reader than of Anne herself. We simply do not know what motivated her but can only use our best understanding of human nature to read between the lines of hisorians. And I think each person ‘reads’ something a little different. I read this fascinating book about a priest who was in contact with Anne’s spirit–not a novel but his real account. Fascinating, but how real was it? I have no idea. We all create from this remarkable story and its amazing characters. Thanks so much, Claire!! 🙂

    1. What is the name of the book where that account is written down? It sounds VERY interesting, and I’d like to read it, too!

      1. It’s called “A Tudor Story” by W S Pakenham Walsh and is about a cleric and missionary’s spiritual experiences with Anne Boleyn who contacts him through mediums. It’s clear that he genuinely believed that Anne was making contact with him but there are quite a few inaccuracies in it so it doesn’t really make sense.

  11. Thank you Claire for another fine thought for the day!
    An empty space is far more exciting than one which is filled – because it has unlimited potential. This applies to a person every bit as much as to a room or a building. Because we know so little about AB, because so much has been wiped from history, she will always be that ’empty space’ into which we can pour all manner of ideas and emotional energy. An empty canvas is perhaps a nicer way of putting it. Forever fascinating.

    1. Or maybe an incomplete canvas? There IS information about Anne, but the details are missing, as though Hans Holbein was called away in the middle of painting a masterpiece.

  12. Anne the Engima is what’s so fascinating about her. She can speak to so many people through the centuries. She’s a mystery, and I do love a good mystery. For me, Anne’s life taught me to stay true to myself and never falter from my beliefs. Stand by your convictions, even if your repuations at stake.
    I remember as a teenager, who was unhappy with my physical appreance, knowing that Anne had more going for her than looks, made me reevaluate what’s important. I wanted to be the woman that was valued for her intelligence and wit. As a woman in my late-20’s now, I see Anne as the kind of strong woman I strive to be everyday, especially when obstacles need to be overcome.
    I know many people will not agree with “my version” of Anne, but to me she’s been my role model for a long time, and I continue to try and honour her memory.
    Thanks Claire for the AB files and forum. You’ve done Anne a great service. She can no longer be ignored.

  13. This article made me sit down and question what I actually think of Anne Boleyn as a person rather than just an historical figure. Because of my interest in George Boleyn I tend to link the siblings together, but although they had similar interests, were very close and had the same religious leanings, I do wonder just how similar their basic temperments were.
    Both were proud, perhaps bordering on an arrogance at their own intelligence and in their favour with the King. There are no records to indicate George shared his sister’s passionate temper, but both had determination, ambition and a certain ruthlessness against anyone who crossed them. I personally see these as attributes rather than negatives.
    But for all Anne’s fiery nature she also exhibited generosity and kindness; in other words I think her bark was worse than her bite. As for George, he certainly showed great distress at his death for those who he owed money to and may have suffered because of him.
    They were both enormously contradictory and I find them both fascinating because they were both so human, with faults but also great attributes. If Anne was perfect we would not still be talking about her so many years after her death because quite frankly she would not have been nearly so interesting. They were people of their time, and I’m not sure whether I would have liked them if I met them, but I have a great deal of admiration for Anne and her brother nontheless.

  14. I don’t think Anne Boleyn chose this way for Katherine and Mary.
    I think she just did the best she can when grave days began and it turned to a combat.
    it seems like all the things was out of control and as Claire says life was much more out of control for tudor women then it is for us. Also, if she was that good in control, she would control her fate to the end…

    Off course I don’t say Anne Boleyn was just a victim becouse she was not. She was first the winner of her cause then she lost it. But I think she thought big and bigger than us. She thought that everything can change and may be must change for even her good or for England’s good.

    So, the truth is she is more than we can imagine with all of her complextity, perfection and imperfection that she was most loved and hated in time and memorable for centuries and our imagination is just a shade of real Anne Boleyn. I am so sorry that it is all we can do but not good enough.

  15. Well Claire, it seems to me that maybe you should get on your soap box more often…GREAT article…someone pushed your buttons concerning our beautiful Anne Boleyn. Anne was a wee bit of everything don’t you think. But seriously she was a woman who wanted to please her father and did anything to curb his anger….I think it changed her and created the Anne we know in history. In turn, after a bit of time, she wanted to also please Henry. Tudor Times were HARD times and even though she was at the top of the grid in that society it was a dog eat dog existence. I think she proved herself rather well……and your love for her came out in this article…you are her champion indeed! I think Anne, if alive, would give you a huge hug!!

      1. Good article. Anne was a clever female, but also a spiritual person.
        When Henry caught sight of her she was in love with Percy of Northumbrland. and Henry had him sent up north and married him off. That would have upset a spirited person like Anne. No wonder she fobbed him off..maybe she never replied in the way he wanted to his love letters to her. Wish they were around to see how she had responded.

  16. Excellent article! That Anne is so many different things to so many different people started (IMO) with Henry.

  17. Claire – BRAVO!!!!!
    Your best yet! And I loved all the comments as well; they work nicely into the research I am doing on Anne and has given me new insight into how I want the article to flow.

    I too sometimes think of how the future will “see” Diana; and I hope by the time 500 years has passed, files that are buried deep within the walls of secured agencies and hidden in the “matteresses” of family homes, will have been released. Unless the information would breach national security or seriously damage a reputation, I believe the public should have access to it.

    You continually amaze me with your insights into history; the day I discovered the “Files” has become, for me, a day of celebration. Each morning when I check email, I do so in anticipation of seeing another link to the past!

  18. I love Anne because she was this fiery, determined, self conscious,strong, passionate, intelligent, well educated and an extremely intellectual woman, when women were not supposed to be anything but. Anne was an individual. That is why so many were attracted to her. One of a kind in a time when Tudor women were all cut from the same cookie cutter and were expected to be little mouses. Yes, she was complex and multifaceted but that is what one admires about Anne – she never hid what she was. Anne took a risk and ran with it even though in the end it cost her her life. She died for being unique and different therefore a threat to a society and culture where women did not matter. Anne was upsetting the apple cart.

    Anne was trying to assume some control over her own life, which she ultimately failed at. Maybe for a week, a day, an hour, a minute or a second Anne was in control of her own life but that didn’t last. The men in her life took that away from her. Maybe her father did Anne a disservice when he sent her to mainland Europe to be educated. This fanned her imagination, her curiousity and her intellect.

    Anne was at the mercy of Henry, her father, Cardinal Wolesley, the Catholic religion and don’t leave out Thomas Cromwell. All men.

    Anne had many negative attributes as we all do. But she never hid who she truly was.
    That is to be admired in any time period.

    Anne was human. I try not to judge her when it comes to KOA and Mary as the common thread that runs between all Henry’s wives and children is Henry himself. I admire KOA and feel a strong empathy to Mary. Mary was abandoned by her father but then so was Elizabeth. They were but useless girls. Let’s look at the English monarchy today – its still a man’s world even though a Queen sits upon the throne.

    We can call Anne a homewrecker and/or Jane Seymour a homewrecker but women did not have that power to be a homewrecker. Their actions and behaviour were again defined by men – their fathers, their brothers, their uncles, their cousins.

    As for Anne’s downfall I stand by my previous thought that this was not about Anne in as so much that the Boleyns, the Howards etc were too poweful and they had to be brought down. I also am of the opinion that if Anne remained Queen and did produce a son then the Boleyn faction would have been unstoppable.

    In our century, we tend to overanalyze and make a situation more complex than it actually is or was. We also tend to judge people at face value and very quickly.

    As we continue our search for who Anne really was let us not forget that she lived in a different time and place. So, let us not judge any of Henry’s wives (even though I can’t stand Jane Seymour). They were all just victims of their time.

  19. About 12 years ago, a prominent entertainment attorney named Bertram Fields wrote a book called “Royal Blood” investigating the various accusations that have been launched against Richard III (http://www.r3.org/basics/fields/index.html). I’d love to see Fields or another competent lawyer write something similar about Anne Boleyn’s case.

  20. I totally agree with you. She is all things to all people. But I do believe peoples perception of her is tainted by their life and their personal opinions regarding things like infidelity or religion. I believe Anne was a good woman and strong minded. The fact that Henry had never been told no before was probably what made him stand up to attention to her. She was so set in her ways and never faltered in her course. And I think ANY man wether they are from the 21st century or the past can resist a woman like that. Obviously, like all marriages, there were ups and downs, but the difference is they lived in an awful time period in history, where having a male heir was important and enemies at court could dethrone you quite literally. I dont mean to point out flaws but it did make me giggle when you wrote “for others she is the woman who stole another man’s husband “. I do understand 😉

      1. It’s ok! I’m sure we all knew what you meant. I loved the article and always feel like you articulate what I feel much better. I always quote you when I argue with my hubby over Historical accuracy in film, literature, etc. Your website is awesome!

  21. Thank you Claire for a beautiful article.
    We each have our own feelings about who Anne was. For me Anne is a strong, vibrant, life force, which shines through the ages. We can’t seem to learn enough about her, but we keep trying.

  22. Reading the many excellent replies to this article, there is little more that I could actually add in terms of accolades, except for this:

    Thank you, Claire, on behalf of the lady on Facebook, for being so kind! There are a LOT of forums online I read with disbelief, because someone will post a statement, much like the woman on Facebook, and it seems to draw out the worst in other posters, to say something as nasty and hurtful as possible.

    While you would have been trying to correct this lady’s perception, from the knowledge of someone who studied Anne’s history carefully, you still recognized that it would have been impolite or perhaps even cruel, to destroy this lady’s viewpoint.

    I think that says a LOT about you, and what a talented, big hearted person you really are.

    1. Oh, thank you, miladyblue! I must admit to writing the comment and then deleting it. I was all ready to fight for Anne but it just struck me that although the woman was not talking about ‘my’ Anne, her idea of Anne was important to her and was an inspiration to her.

  23. I think the responses and comments to your article make your point. Anne was many things to different people. There is something about her that still lives and is still remembered hundreds of years later. It doesn’t seem to matter why she is remembered but the fact is that she is and that we continue to write about her and to seek out answers to what it was that made her into a legend. Great article. Thanks.

  24. Good article Claire. Yes, I think Anne is many things to many people. I certainly see her differently now to how I did when I was 14 and first became interested in her – but she is still my heroine! I think part of the appeal is never being able to be sure, never being able to pin her down.

  25. Have had a interest in this time frame of English History since I was a Freshman in high school and had English History as a elected history class. For myself, I always thought that Anne was pawn in a kind of game for power & wealth. I am enjoying your site so much and learning so much more than I ever knew about Anne and those who surrounded and touched not just her life but her death as well. Thank-you for your research and sharing it with so many . CeCe—USA

  26. Dear Claire.
    History is written by the winners and to set the record stright I have never believed Anne was a husband stealer Henry had mustresses long before Anne…Catherine turned her head to them and accepted such behavior as a matter of course. That just wasn’t Anne style. Catherine was six years older then Henry and after a time it begain to show, all the miscarages and possible ill health issues she may have had finally were taking their towell on her body.. Anne had a previous engagement and Henry saw that by the wayside to clear the path for himself. That wasn’t Annes fault she lost her first love and here troted up fat butt hal, henry was a selfish, spoiled man who never expected to be king but fate had other plans. I can only guess as to what part Annes parents had in shoving her into a relationship but doubt they needed much help with Henry pushing all the buttons available to him…..It would not have been wise to say “No” to the king…..

    1. “…and here trotted up fat butt Hal.”

      OMG, suzie, I just about died laughing at that mental image! Nice play on “Bluff King Hal” as well. Well done!

    2. anne said “no” for six years why did she suddenly give in to henry well ,she did not want her reputation sullied and ruined ,i honestly think by that stage her reputation was well and truly gone ,she waited until she was sure of the crown ,she would have been better off to keep saying no ,i mean she kept henry at arms lenght for all those years ,why did she give in to him?

  27. Great article and so many wonderful comments. I really like the way you present a balanced view of history Claire. That is what keeps me going back to your site. You offer up opinions based on facts and you also talk about opinions which you disagree with but you do show how these writers arrived at their conclusions. I have learned much from reading the articles here, especially about how to approach a controversial theory and discussing it in a fair manner. You have inspired me to keep an open mind and to really listen to those whose point of view is so different from my own.

  28. Wow…this article and the responses, to me, just proves to me the “passion” Anne Boleyn did bring/has brought out in us all. Thank you Claire for the fascinating article…I agree the best one yet. I think you are right that she respresents different faces to us all individually and it’s great to have a site where we can let our hair down and tell someone about it! To me, Anne Boleyn was a woman of different faces. All of them mentioned in this article…I could never have summed it up better than what I’ve read this morning. Thank you! Like “lisaannejane” “You have inspired me to keep an open mind and to really listen to those whose point of view is so different from my own.” , the reason I love this website! 🙂

  29. Great article, right on point!! “My” Anne is a great lady, intelligent, passionate, virtuous with her flaws of course, who inspires me every day. One of the srongest women.. Thank you, Claire, for writing about her, so that we can learn more.. I hope someday some primary source, for example the diary you mentiones, comes up!

  30. Anne was many of things but like Claire said she did not deserve her fate and what happened to her and neither did the five men who were co-accused with her. I also agree with the fact that the Boleyns just like the Howards had been a powerful, a very powerful nation in their day at court as many factions and memebers of the nobillity were but perhaps the Boleyns and the Howards just that little more, may a lot more. I admire the Boleyns and the Howards alike, they are both my favourite of all, of all the houses of nobillity to ever exsist. I mean I admire as well as like the others to but not as much as the ones previously mentioned. They just had something about then which was interesting and it must have been prety dull without them once they had left and gone.

    It was and had not been Anne’s fault at all, it was not her fault that the King fell for her, fell for her when he did. Apparently Catherine of Aragon was giving Anne Boleyn at the time as that was at the time that she had been a maid-of-honour and a lady-in-wating to her was trying to guide her and tell her as to what to do in concern and matters in which and where the King was concerned and like is said we have no responses on Annes part as to what she said relation to what Henry had wrote as well as written to her. We do although have one response and I will post a link to that, it was dated at teh beginning of their courtship but apart from that we just have Hnery’s accounts in which to go on. This letter was written during the summer of late 1526.


    I do beleive though that she had done like what Catherine of Aragon ordered her to do as well as what her parents as well as family told her to do too plus with the use of her own head of course and that was to keep him at bay for a while, but as to whos idea this was solely it was hard to say. I beleive that is what a mixture of the above I mentioned the people around her like the Queen, family along with herself advising her on what to do when it came to the King. Now wether it was because she had not at all really been all that interested in the King at the start, at the beginning or wether she did like him but because of certain circumstances, for example because he was already married and because her sister had at one time not long before her, the king had become the Kings mistress this may just have put her off with an exception, if he were to make her his wife and Queen she would comply, take heed and settle for him and what was to come but not until that had been accepted as well as agreed upon. So she got what she wanted in the end she was quite luck in a way despite what had happned and what was to become many years or so later. Some people would not be able to even get this far in life let alone how far she had got and Henry got what he wanted too after a whiles wait, it may have taken seven years but it must have all been worth it with the exception that it did not provide not just the King but also not Anne with the male heir in which was to be expected but again this had not been Annes fault I mean she was not to know the outcome of it all was she? and nor ws the king either. it must have appeared after it all like having another catherine of Aragon that he had on his hands all over again, without the long wait of course 🙂 and being of a different appearance and just different 🙂

    Great article 🙂 Again another great article 🙂

        1. I thought no letter from Anne to Henry had survived.. It is really moving reading her own words, thank you Claire for yor answer!

        2. I would love to believe Anne wrote this, but don’t a lot of historians think it’s a fake?

        3. Hi Claire,

          I am standing on my soapdish to say that this article and the comments delighted me. In Massachusetts we had an April Fool’s Day snowstorm (ugh), so I read this article and comments several times.

          Loved it!! Stay on your soap box Claire. You write with passion, intelligence and emotion. Without that recipe, your articles would be dry as dust.

          Could Anne’s answer’s to Henry’s be in the Vatican Library as well as Henry’s? Many moons ago I read that both sides of the correspondence resides there, but have been trying to track the source since.

          Rock on.

  31. This is exactly what I LOVE about this site–so many people who are Anne-fans–just like me!! Claire, you have done something AWESOME here by following your passion–it’s inspiring and exciting!

  32. What a hell of an article love it, as an Anne Bolyen fan Anne sure is all the great wonderful things said in the article Anne was indeed a mystery. I admire her in so many ways. Claire you could not have expressed yourself better about Anne in this article. You said it all!!! Once again thanks so much for this great website, what a great way to honor Anne and the woman she was.

  33. Excellent article! I think so many of us are fascinated by Anne is because we see ourselves in her. She, like all of us, was a complex woman with a dynamic personality that cannot be easily categorized. She is nothing llike what history makes her to be, yet she is all of it.

  34. Wow! I don’t remember when I’ve enjoyed an article and its resultant dialogue this much. I have been savoring it for hours. Hang in there Claire, you’re the one!!

    P.S. Claire, if we had been able to talk to Anne’s spirit on of those nights we roamed the halls of Hever Castle, maybe we could have gotten everything straightened out.

  35. That didn’t sound like your brain was mush at all! I found this article really interesting and thought provoking. I guess, to me anyway, Anne is my idol, the woman who helped establish my religion in this country, someone ahead of her time – intelligent, brave and determined. And to me Anne will always be innocent, and so will lovely George and the others too. I really think that she was just the victim of unhappy circumstance, the victim of a tyrant.

  36. Personally I adore the mystery in Anne because we barely know anything about her and each persons’ thoughts can’t be completely wrong(figuratively speaking). The fact that she is such a mystery also frustrates me immeasurable because there is SO many details we are missing. I wish there was something that could show us how she was. Why did they have to distroy such important documents and texts back in history? It’s so irritating. I would be perfectly content if we had the replies from Anne Boleyn to King Henry’s love letters, that is what I wish to see the most. Or even to have a DEFINITE picture of her, of course out of all the pictures I have seen there is one that I suppose to be her but alas I am only one person.


  38. You know, I read this and it got me thinking about what version of Anne I picture. And I must say, although DOOMED QUEEN ANNE kick started my love of Anne’s story in the sixth grade, I’m a little ashamed to admit that the version of Anne that most sticks with me and I like is the version of Anne as written in THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. It is true that this book is well, a blatant use of artistic license and I’m failry certain Anne was nowhere near as deplorable. But this Anne, despite her faults, was the absolute personification of ambition and determination. And some part of that hit home with me, her absolute steadfastness in the face of the impossible task of making herself Queen. Me, being the waitress who wants to be an actress, ADORED the fact that she was so selfish and headstrong and actually did it, be damned the consequences. I think the story was something I needed, so to speak. So I did some more thinking, and was wondering. Do you think it’s possible that because there are so many Anne’s (martyr, vixen) we automatically connect with the version of her story in which we see something we ourselves want or need for everyday life? Whether it be strength in the face of enemies ( school bullies for some girls ), perserverance to do something people think is impossible. Whatever it is.

  39. After a series of family crisis, including my husband being hospitalized with an ecoli infection that almost killed him in March, I am once again back to trying to carvie time to write an article on Anne to submit to the files. One I am hoping will give more insight into her personality and frame of mind through out her life with Henry. In re-reading this article, I had a simple thought. Anne was just a strong willed woman living in a male dominated society just trying to be true to herself and survive. Can any of us – women of the 21 century living in advanced cultures where women are finally coming into their own – imagine living in a world where every decision regarding our lives are made by men? From the moment of birth to death, the women of Anne’s world and herself had to bow to men because they were looked upon as less intelligent and unable to make decisions for themselves. Even as Queen, Anne had to bow to Henry’s decision that she could not nurse her own child; that must have been so diffiucult for a new mother wo wished to bond with her baby. It is no wonder that a woman of Anne’s intelligence would find it difficult to censure her comments and control her emotions at times. How frustrating it must have been for her so often; she had to have found herself biting her tongue time after time, knowing her opinion held no weight but just might be the better solution. I would make a large bet that if she lived today she would be a powerhouse and an icon for women worldwide. Alas, she lived in a time that could not appreciate her intelligence and strength and in the end it had to be at least part of the reason that Henry wanted to be rid of her.

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